Kapwing founder Julia Enthoven on learning to trust your gut

Surfboard team

Published on Apr 1, 2024

When Julia Enthoven first launched Kapwing, she and her co-founder had no plans to work with a board or investors. Their plan was to bootstrap. Build the business exactly the way they wanted to, with a focus on profitability and sustainability from the very beginning.

But when an investor offered to lead their first round one-year in, they seized the opportunity. Since then, they’ve grown from a no-board, Seed-stage startup to a thriving Series A company successfully navigating the ins and outs of board and investor management.

Like most things in the startup world, getting thrown in the deep end meant a lot of trial and error. But the skills they’ve learned along the way have been invaluable for any founder.

Here are the top five things we learned from our conversation with Julia:

Founder-investor relationships are a two-way street

Just like you need to trust your board and investors, they need to trust you. A good board member understands their role is to offer guidance and support, but trusts that you’re working hard, making good decisions on behalf of the company, and doing the best job leading the company that anyone could do.

Following a simple framework can help build trust

Building trust takes time, but sticking to a consistent framework can help you build a track record of reliability. During board meetings at Kapwing, Julia and her co-founder follow a consistent pattern of communication:

Outline what you said you were going to do

Discuss what you actually did

Share the results

Detail your plans for moving forward

Sharing truthful and transparent results (ideally backed by data) help you build your reputation as a competent, dependable leader—someone who actually does what they set out to do.

Trust your gut

You have to learn when to follow some else’s advice and when to push back. While your board and investors are there to offer input and advice, ultimately they just don’t have the same context as you do. You know your business better than anyone. If your gut is telling you the advice you’re getting is wrong, listen to it. Don’t doubt yourself. Instead, use their advice as a single input in the decision making process and weigh it accordingly. If you believe you’re the best person to run your business, you shouldn’t let your board run your decisions.

Keep co-founder conversations out of board meetings

In some circumstances, having a co-founder on your board can be a huge benefit. They can be a gut-check for your gut instincts—if your instincts are aligned, you can feel more confident in your own convictions. But if they’re not, you really need to get on the same page before you meet with your board. Trying to resolve those disagreements in front of your board is unproductive and not a great use of time. Hash it out first, then share your decision with your board.

If you’re not sure, ask

When you’re a founder, asking for feedback directly from the people involved is the best way to learn. That applies to leading a team, developing a marketing strategy, and, yes, board management. If you’re new to working with a board and you’re not sure how it’s going, just ask: how is this going for you? Is there anything I’m not doing that you’d like to see me do? What does an excellent board meeting look like for you? Simply asking your board what their expectations are is going to give you a lot more information than taking a shot in the dark.

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